Rash of Student Suicides Clouds ’Day of Silence’
Two years ago, a high school student taunted with anti-gay slurs killed himself. Now, his parents are seeking a program at the school to address bullying, according to the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a national GLBT youth and safe schools organization.
In an April 3 press release, GLSENJ reported that Eric Mohat, 17, killed himself after schoolmates tormented him with anti-gay name-calling, even humiliating him in front of teachers.
GLSEN’s release says that "the school did next to nothing to address the problem."
Mohat’s parents, William and Janis Mohat, have brought a federal suit against Mentor High School, the Ohio school were Eric Mohat had been a student.
The young man’s parents appeared on ABC News to talk about their son, his death, and their quest to see that other youths would be spared.
They also said that though he was taunted for being gay, Eric himself did not identify as such.
The release quoted GLSEN’s executive director, Eliza Byard, who said, "As a parent myself, I can’t fathom surviving the pain of losing a child, or working through the rage of feeling that other adults did not take sufficient care of your child while your child was in their hands.
"But Janis and William Mohat are working to build a lasting legacy out of this tragedy, by trying to ensure that no other student has to endure what Eric did," Byerd continued.
"Bullying and harassment are endemic problems in far too many schools, especially anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
"Despite this fact, far too many schools look the other way."
The release cited the results of a national survey that revealed a shockingly high rate of anti-gay harassment and bullying in American schools.
"Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (60.8%) who experience harassment or assault never reported the incident to the school, according to the GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students," the release read.
"The most common reason given was that they didn’t believe anything would be done to address the situation.
"Of those who did report the incident, nearly a third (31.1%) said the school staff did nothing in response," noted the release.
Nor does a student actually have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered to suffer taunts and bullying, the release noted.
"Anti-LGBT taunts are also widely used against all students, not just LGBT-identified. Two of the top three reasons students said their peers are harassed in school are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to the 2005 GLSEN/Harris Interactive Report, ’From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America.’"
The problem is even worse for LGBT students. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
The suit comes only weeks before the annual National Day of Silence, a peaceful protest during which GLBT students and their supporters signify their lack of a voice by remaining silent for a day. This year’s observance of the day will be April 17.
Anti-gay groups have encouraged parents to keep their children home on April 17, rather than allow them to go to schools where students will be allowed to remain silent in protest.
Noted the release, "Ohio does not specifically protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression."